Sunday, June 20, 2010


Some lawmakers want to keep the barn door closed to city drilling; others want it open, then to stand in the doorway and wrangle one raging bull at a time.

"On a personal level, as an individual, I might want to see an outright ban," Mr. Dowd said Saturday. "I fear what [drilling] will do to my drinking water, and more importantly I fear what this will do to my kids' drinking water."

However, legislation barring gas drilling "would eliminate our ability to engage in this conversation," he said. (P-G, Lord)

Beg pardon? I do not understand what that means, yet.

"Better to be safe than sorry." "A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush." "Conditional Use permitting approvals are an acutely troubled if not endangered species of zoning regulation." These are all familiar old sayings.

*-UPDATE: The whispered / implied difficulty is becoming more explicit (though the claims are still strangely limited to reporters' immaculate gleanings, rather than statements by government officials or industry representatives):

A state Supreme Court decision last year in a case involving Oakmont and Salem Township, Westmoreland County, allows municipalities to use zoning ordinances to limit and direct where wells can be drilled, but ruled that municipalities could not prohibit drilling altogether. (Trib, Brandolph)

For the record, I'm still wondering whether we can buy enough time with an outright or virtual municipal ban in order to reach the era of a statewide moratorium -- but I'm also starting to think it's time to focus on achieving that statewide moratorium.


  1. I propose we prohibit gas drilling within 5,000 yards of any park with a tree house.

  2. Dowd's comments mean that if you ban drilling outright that ban will be overturned in courts as ILLEGAL. No wonder the ultra lefty crowd can't gain control - you just don't get it. A pragmatist like Dowd tried to do something good and you get on your high and uneducated horse and sling mud.

  3. Anon 7:56 - Thank you for advancing the discussion. I have five points:

    1. That is, as yet, an untested assertion, and one that nobody has yet put forward on the record: that an outright city ban would be overturned as ILLEGAL.

    2. The opposite side of the coin, that Dowd's raft of more complex regulations and forms of scrutiny would stand up in court, is every bit as much an untested assertion.

    3. I thought my own remarks were extremely qualified. Where is this "mudslinging" to which you refer? Perhaps I've missed it elsewhere. It is true that I absolutely loathe having to play chess against people who would pour massive amounts of secret and unstudied chemicals into the earth specifically in order to break it up -- but this itself has nothing to do with Dowd's proposed mechanism for confronting that madness.

    4. One reason Dowd's mechanism presently scares me is because it seems SOME THINGS eventually must slip past the defenders of rigorously establishing public harm and the goalie of executive intent to actually try and do so. Also it sounds like a good way to swamp the City Planning Dept in environmental impact studies for the next hundred thousand years. Also, when it comes to electronic billboards and strip clubs, Conditional Use seems to be failing us all as a mechanism to regulate anything. (Unless it isn't, in which case plaintiff's lawyers have us all hypnotized.)

    5. Aren't we about to have our own Governor soon? If we pass an outright city ban, and current state law indeed actually turns out to trump us, can't we then do something to stand up for local control? Should be a popular issue. This would play out over a long time, and in the meanwhile we'll have taken a strong stand.

  4. Matter of fact, although Councilman Dowd was only lightly and vaguely quoted, Ms. Klaber of the industry coalition was heavily quoted in the article. And SHE was making only political-cum-fiscal arguments, NOT legal arguments.

    Thus far I'm with Shields -- I'd rather start with a strong ban and then negotiate from there, IF AND WHEN we turn up needing to.

  5. Dunkard Creek anyone?The proof is in the wiped out watershed. Kudos to D. Hopey of the PG for his excellent reportage on this while we were all agog with economists and heavy handed security.